Loose Tea in Restaurants
It's great that restaurants are just beginning to realize how important it is to provide high-quality tea as part of their culinary offerings. For too long tea has wallowed in their world as an afterthought, resulting in lukewarm water being presented in coffee cup along with a mediocre tea bag. Loose tea was considered too challenging to source, too complex to prepare, and too expensive. Companies such as ours are working very hard to dispel these beliefs and to point out how important tea can be to a restaurant's appeal. An example is Heartbeat Restaurant in Union Square W Hotel in New York. Through tea, and great food, they are building a respected reputation in New York and beyond.
But for those times when you are going to a restaurant that has yet to see the light, we have a suggestion -- bring your own tea leaves! Strange as it may sound, it's the best way to get great tea during a restaurant meal.
Here are some pointers if you wish to give this a try:
- Generally it will be hard to get water perfect for black teas as most restaurants use their coffee machine to prepare water for tea. That water is generally 190 F when it comes out of the machine -- so bring your oolongs, greens, or whites. Ask them to bring the water in their standard teapot along with a strainer, and a tea cup (make sure that none of these items are used in coffee service because it may affect the taste of the tea).
- If you have a metal infuser basket or Teeli filter, you may wish to bring that with you to be sure that straining the tea is hassle-free.
- When I bring tea to a restaurant, I use a Ziploc bag, putting just enough in the bag for several servings. You want to avoid storing too much tea in clear plastic because UV rays will degrade tea over time.
- Measure out the tea to your liking, steep just the amount that will fit in the teacup they provide, pour, and enjoy! Keep the teapot and request more water when you are ready to re-steep.
- Consider bringing a display tea. Green Tea Anemone, Litchi Nut, Dragon Pearls, and Phoenix Eyes are all easy to make, since you can just request a wineglass with hot water in it. Then just add the tea and you are ready to go. As long as the stem of the wineglass is long it should easily absorb the heat of the water and not break the glass.
The other benefit to doing this is that restaurants will begin to get the message. They need to pay as much attention to tea as they do to all of the other foods they serve.